1. Roland of Gilead
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    Roland of Gilead Member

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    How Do I Write a Convincing Addict?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Roland of Gilead, Dec 5, 2009.

    Howdy y'all. I've been working on a novel for a while now (mostly planning, a little bit of actual writing has been done, but not much) and my issue is this: I don't know how to portray my MC's cocaine addiction. In the novel, he's not quite a full-on junkie yet, he's sort of teetering on the edge. Problem is, I don't quite know how to write this. Any suggestions?
     
  2. .daniel
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    .daniel New Member

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    My suggestion, especially if he is teetering on the edge, is to not be very explicit about it. Let it show through his actions. Keep in mind that most full-on junkies are in denial, so he in particular will think he's just fine.

    Subtlety is key. Readers will pick up on his addiction without being told, and it'll seem much more realistic that way.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Research is your best bet. I'm sure there are memoirs or other writings written by ex cocaine addicts that will help. Something like a drug addict is very had to write, IMO, without actually having experienced it or knowing someone who has.
     
  4. sidtvicious
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    sidtvicious Contributing Member Contributor

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    Snow Blind by Robert Sabbag is a good place to start. Maybe not the Coke zombies towards the end but some of the behavior of certain dealers.
     
  5. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    A few of my friends have me worried in regard to their usage of cocain. To me, they seem to share the same attitude towards it, despite being different types of people. In their minds, it's just a "party drug", and "everyone's doing it, you know". They seem to think so, partly through trivializing the severity of its effects, partly through denial of how often they "party", and partly through surrounding themselves with others who think the same, thus enforcing their delusion that it's no big deal and that everyone else does it too.

    I think it's a very typical pattern for would-be addicts of any kind of substance. Those who don't get bored with it, mature their way out of it, or in some other way abandon it, will usually not accept facts about their addiction before it becomes a severe threat to their health, sanity or wallet.
     
  6. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Sometimes, when addicted to a drug - the symptams of addiction to a drug are always the same, even if the drug is different -, the person can become very defensive of things they know they are doing wrongly. Like they will not tidy up, and though they will want to tidy up, they don't and become aggressive with people who comment on it. Sides, addicts know what they are doing is bad for them, that's not the problem, the want to try it, and expirance it turns into a habit, a habit turns, in time, to an addiction.

    Addiction is a funny thing, if there is alcohol in the area an alcoholic will not be able to think of anything else until it is drank. It takes over your mind, and the only way to appease it is to have it again and again; until there is none left. This can lead to a really harsh patch of depression, from more than one source. They may be depressed about a number of things at the same time like: the fact all the booze is gone, they have had it all to themselves and are ashamed of it, and the very fact they are addicted to something is horrible as it is.

    It feels like a dark black hole, from out of which there is no escape. This in itself can lead to Paranoia.

    I'm not going to say go out and watch how addicts act, that would be wrong on a number of levels, nor read anything on it as the sensitivity of this subject is just so no one really writes about it (as far as I've seen anyway) but I will say: use your own experience. Seen drug use in clubs? Ever been addicted to something, or thought you were?
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    RESEARCH!

    trying to write about something you've no experience with is suicidal, if you don't do the requisite research... and some things just can't be written about believably by many writers, no matter how much they read up on them...

    another good source is the mostly-autobiographical novel 'rush' by kim wozencraft...
     
  8. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    Read The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star by Nikki Sixx. Not coke but gives a good idea about the head of an addict. Addictive personalities tend to have the same MO but the drug of choice is a matter of the addictions outcome (such as coke giving the 'I'm invincible' deal that is never as good as the first time). Still, the book shows you how an addict thinks.
     
  9. writewizard
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    writewizard Contributing Member

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    If he's teetering on the edge, then you have to show that, like the other author said. Does he think his cocaine use is right? Does he justify it? Explain that in your writing. Does he hate himself for using? Write it out.

    I find that in most of my situations, my characters develop naturally. There is a Harry Potter fanfic called The Bleeding Clown that is just excellent, where Harry Potter is a drug addict. Heroin, not cocaine, but it's somewhat close. You could read that for review.

    I think that this, like most things, will develop naturally. Your character will tell you how he feels about his addiction. Write it down. Does he feel good? Does he wait for his next high?

    It'll take a little research, but you'll do great, I'm sure of it.
     
  10. Nobeler Than Lettuce
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    Nobeler Than Lettuce Contributing Member

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    One resource: http://www.erowid.org

    On that site is a collection of everything from scholarly papers, to guides on production and usage of drugs. I used it a lot to not die when I was younger.

    Personally, I'd like to see people get away from the "suffering and handicapped" addict archetype. Most drug addicts are functioning members of society, many of which believe that drugs (especially cocaine) allow them to be anything from a more efficient worker to a longer lasting lover.

    I recommend you read some of the experience reports on Erowid and try to get a flavor for what coke addiction is like.
     
  11. John Bender
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    John Bender Banned

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    Plus, be aware that drug consumption is no way the same as drug addiction. And that drugs and drug addiction are very overloaded and stereotyped phenomena. Everybody has an opinion on them, thinks they know what it is and how addicts feel, think and act. But behind every addict there’s an individual and thus an individual approach to the consumption of whatever substance.

    There are even people (therapists and such) who actually doubt that the traditional interpretation and definition of addiction. They say it’s probably more a modern myth, fed by political and ideological interests rather than by actual facts. Which is not supposed to mean that there is no such thing as compulsive behaviour. There is, no doubt. It’s just supposed to mean that you have you really need a careful and open minded approach to the topic if you want to avoid stereotyping…
     
  12. 67Kangaroos
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    67Kangaroos Contributing Member

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    here's my $.02, so if anyone wants to correct me, feel free - i'm no expert, and i won't take offense.

    keep in mind the different reasons a person can become addicted. since you said the character is on the edge, maybe you can show the difference from recreationally using drugs to using drugs as a primary coping mechanism. (and clinical wording if from your character's point of view will probably not sound right)

    if the character just uses at parties but then starts using more and more (for example, someone they knew died, after a hard day, just to get started on the day) the addiction takes hold, first as 'letting loose' but it progresses in a way that may seem so insignificant to the addict that they don't see themselves as addicts. they begin to use to get a high but then every down they start 'fixing' with a drug high instead of trying any other means of addressing their problem. the drug becomes the only way they can cope with the world.

    stopping an addiction will have both medical and psychological barriers - withdrawl symptoms can be so bad that a person needs to be hospitalized. as for psychological barriers, sometimes addicts use a certain drug as a way to 'get through the day', so relapse is inevitable if a person doesn't learn a new way to 'get through the day'. basically what i mean is, just because a person goes through an entire withdrawl, it doesn't mean they're cured of addiction (that's probably common knowledge, so sorry if i sound like i'm getting ahead of myself here)
     
  13. TyperShark
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    TyperShark New Member

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    I agree about the subtlety concept. No reader would feel as emotionally attached and/or interested in the main character than if the reader found out about the addiction themselves. It gives reader's the ability to pick up on the "warning signs" and also may be more inclined to read further to find out "why the main character suddenly woke up naked in the sewers." My favorite aspect of reading is finding out little secrets the character's have. Addiction may actually be one of the best secrets!

    Best of luck
     
  14. John Bender
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    John Bender Banned

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    Another question comes to my mind: Is the cocaine addiction vital to your plot? Because if it's not, if it's just something you dig and want to write in for the sake of it, you should probably consider leaving it out after all. It might downgrade the quality of your work on various levels, especially if you don't really know how to get it across authentically.
     
  15. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    With drugs like cocaine, I don’t think the addict has any real understanding of how their being effected for some time. At first they just really crave the sense of euphoria, no different than alcoholic. Their actions will change however. Short term effects can actually be positive. I’ve seen introverted friends turn into a talkative people who want to interact with everybody. Over a period of time that all changes, and the euphoria is no longer an exceptional experience, just a way to feel normal.

    Go ahead and do secondary source research if you can sort through the ramblings of an expert, but I’d advise trying to find the stories from addicts and those around them. Also, you’ve probably had natural drugs in your body do the same thing to you, so you can still use experience for the high.

    I like the idea somewhere in a post above that said to keep the addiction hidden so it can be revealed to the reader at a latter point. At first the reader my suspect the person is bipolar, or just under too much stress. It’s good to keep the reader wondering.
     
  16. love2listen
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    love2listen Member

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    Some of my friends have had serious issues with drugs in the past. In my experience they accept what they are doing as just another part of their life: "I am a drug addict." They see drug use as an extension of who they are.
     
  17. John Bender
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    John Bender Banned

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    drug use or drug addiction?
     
  18. ronmatt
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    ronmatt Member

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    Do you have any addictions at all? Not necessarily drugs, maybe coffee, or root beer or cigarettes. Anything. Go 'cold turkey' on it/them. Write from there.
     
  19. John Bender
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    John Bender Banned

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    @ ronmatt

    I think this approach is hardly sufficient. You might be able to cover a bit of an uncomfy feeling that comes with ditching stuff like root beer (really, that’s a joke, isn’t it??). But you definitely don’t get any of the immediate and/or long term psychical stress, let alone the physical withdrawal symptoms (especially as they massively vary from substance to substance) that come with going off a psychotropic substance.
     
  20. ronmatt
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    ronmatt Member

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    Yes, root beer was a joke ( unless one is hooked on root beer, I suppose ). My point was, assuming the writer has had no experience with drug withdrawal, then the closest physical/mental/physiological comparison would be the 'minor' withdrawal symptoms that accompany the temporary discomfort associated with say, missing your morning cup of coffee. Then again, this is personal.

    I know that if I don't get my caffeine fix in the AM, By 10, I'm somewhat shaky. By 1PM, I've developed a slight headache behind my right eye. By 3, you simply don't want to be in the same room with me.

    With cigarettes, I'm good for a few hours, that's the time when I'm trying to talk myself into finally quiting. Then I start digging through the jacket pockets, the back of the car, in the seats of the truck..down in my shop..shirt pockets..anyplace where an old forgotten pack of smokes could be hidden that contained that desperately needed white cylinder.

    Of course, the urge for tobacco or coffee are minor, compared to say, heroin. It's up to the writer to expand them. To extend upon them. But the withdrawal symptoms from these addictions are similar.

    To the same extent. If you want to capture any desperation. Mimicking it helps. Have a friend drop you off downtown; don't take any money or credit cards or munchies or smokes or a cell phone. Just get dropped off in the middle of say, 93rd between 'C' and 'D'. Don't arrange to be 'rescued' until a day later. I guarantee, you'll develop a sense of desperation. Maybe not as deep and as thorough as a homeless person, but deep enough to build on.

    Or you can sit there, plunking away at the keyboard and try to dredge up emotions and experiences from thin air.
     
  21. Fabulosa
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    Writing a coke addict is probably easier than writing a heroin addict.

    For a coke head: simply take feeling powerful/cool/funny/confident/visionary/amazing and take that feeling to the max. On coke, you think anything is possible for you. You're the superstar of your own very cool movie.

    Likewise take extreme anxiety/depression/emptiness - all those I am **** and life is horrible moments and exaggerate them to the max to cover the comedown.

    Writing a heroin addict is harder for the uninitiated. When on heroin, all of the pain in life in reduced down to a tiny dot in the corner of the room and you are totally at peace. Its very introspective and gentle. Unlike coke addicts, heroin junkies just want to be left alone to enjoy their peace. The strongest painkillers in the world are the ones that our bodies secrete naturally everyday as without them, living in our bodies is a very painful experiences. When you take heroin, your body stops producing natural painkillers and lets heroin do the job instead, so when you stop taking heroin, you have no protection against the physical pain of life. Therefore you see a 20 year old shuffling around in agony as if they were 95. Its amazing how much every little thing can hurt, and we don't even know it.

    And always remember that the true addict is the smartest person in the room. They have to be ten times smarter and more focused than anyone else to sort out their fix.

    To write a convincing coke addict, I'd go with advice given above - don't overdo it, just drop a few hints.
     
  22. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    How to write an addict: There are many good suggestions here that will help you with the behavior associated with various types of drug addiction. You can find plenty of research on the web, too.

    How to write a convincing addict: Never, ever, ever forget that the addict is still a person. So create the character as a person first, then add in the addict behavior.
     
  23. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    There are a lot of message boards out there for recovering addicts. I'd start there.

    Sober Recovery is a great one. I post there for support because a family member is a recovering addict.

    I've really gotten to understand a lot more about addiction by visiting boards and listening to people talk about their addictions. I would never use someone's personal account for my fiction (and even if you did, so many of them are similar that they would be impossible to differentiate or identify the individual), but I really do understand the addict's mind better now. It's helpful for my own understanding as well as a general human understanding of your fellow man/woman.

    :)
     
  24. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I couldn't put it better myself.
     

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